Opuntia humifusa is endemic to Northeastern USA and over the border into Ontario, Canada. It grows on sandy soils, rocky outcrops or on cliffs and bluffs, tolerating extensive winter wet, long periods of sub-zero temperatures, heavy frost and deep snowfall. Of all the many Opuntia species that are fully hardy in the UK, Opuntia humifusa is probaby the most suitable for British conditions, tolerating wetter conditions than most Opuntias. Typically in a cold winter, it shrivels somewhat, its skin crinkling and turning purple but when the warm weather of Spring rolls around again, it regains condition and growth is rapid, sprouting many new cladodes.
It quickly forms small prostrate clumps, its cladodes typically growing sideways until they reach the ground and re-root. It often has few or even absent spines but the dense tufts of glochids need to be treated with respect and a thick pair of gloves. Its yellow flowers appear in early summer, typically in June and are followed by the prickly pears, which slowly turn from green through yellow to purple. They are edible as are the cladodes themselves.
A very easy cactus to grow, Opuntia humifusa is probably the best Opuntia to start with if you havn't yet begun to grow cacti outdoors in the UK. All it needs is a sunny aspect and a sandy, free-draining substrate.
|Synonyms||Cactus compressus, Cactus humifusus, Cactus opuntia var. nana, Opuntia austrina, Opuntia calcicola, Opuntia compressa, Opuntia compressa var. austrina, Opuntia compressa var. fuscoatra, Opuntia fuscoatra, Opuntia humifusa var. austrina, Opuntia humifusa var. humifusa, Opuntia humifusa subsp. humifusa, Opuntia impedata, Opuntia mesacantha, Opuntia rafinesquei|
|Geographical Origin||NE USA and Ontario, Canada|
|Cultivation||Full sun. Free-draining sandy soil|
|Hardiness||Fully hardy. It loses condition throughout the winter, shrivelling and turning pinkish-purple but bounces back in the Spring|
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